During the past year, Donald Trump and his cabinet have proposed and executed a number of regressive policies, taking aim at regulations, health care, the tax code and the budget. Because these issues have a universal impact, it is easy to forget that some people feel the consequences more than others. In this regard, it deserves saying that women have been thrown under the proverbial bus and have been made to fight for reproductive rights. The disproportionate impact felt by women has been accompanied by a direct assault on measures and initiatives designed to protect women from pervasive sexual harassment and pay discrimination.
In March, the administration rolled back an Obama-era rule requiring federally contracted companies to disclose sexual harassment charges and to limit agreements that funnel employee complaints into private arbitration.
Moreover, female students around the country have been rendered more vulnerable thanks to a guidance issued by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. The guidance rescinded an Obama-era document outlining the evidentiary standards in sexual assault cases. Under DeVos’ guidance, universities now have autonomous control over how evidence is handled. “There will be no more sweeping them under the rug,” DeVos said, justifying her memo. She continued, “But the process also must be fair and impartial, giving everyone more confidence in its outcomes.”
Reproductive Rights Under Attack
Furthering the destruction of women’s rights, the administration reinstated a Reagan-era “gag order” on abortion services in other countries. According to the order, the US government is prohibited from supplying international abortion clinics with funding. Trump signed the executive order the day after Roe v. Wade’s anniversary, in an overtly symbolic attack on reproductive rights advocates. The order itself might be moot as the so-called Helms Amendment already precludes the distribution of funds to abortion services in other countries. With insufficient funding and less-than-optimal political conditions, 47,000 women die every year thanks to a lack of reproductive care.
On the home front, the open attack on abortion is well under way. In October, Trump voiced his support for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks. That bill has already passed the house.
And in March, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, overseen by Scott Lloyd, announced that federally funded shelters would not offer abortions to undocumented minors unless approved by Lloyd himself. What’s more, after a 17-year old girl brought her case to the DC Court of Appeals, it became apparent that Jane Doe and other young undocumented women had been sent (and continue to be sent) to “crisis pregnancy centers” where minors are counseled against abortions. In the case of Jane Doe, the minor’s parents were notified without consent.
Finally, as a part of its attack on data collection, the Trump administration has rolled back an EEOC initiative that collects data on gender income inequality. The agency sought, under the rescinded initiative, to identify the wages amongst different genders, races and ethnicities. After throwing the program in the dustbin, the OMB said it was just too burdensome for businesses, even though it cost only $417 to comply.
Changing the Optics
To add insult to injury, the administration took down a potentially useful report on the White House website. It was written in 2014 by former-VP Joe Biden’s office, in collaboration with the White House Counsel. As Alexandra Brodsky told the Huffington Post, “I went looking for it because I’m working on briefing for a client who’s a survivor and was looking for some literature about the impact of sexual violence and that’s been a really helpful resource for that kind of research.”
In a time when the Harvey Weinsteins of the world are beginning to emerge from the shadows, we certainly don’t need more obfuscation and socially regressive policies. Many are gritting their teeth, waiting for the 2018 elections to change the political tide. To date there are over 20 sexual misconduct allegations against President Donald J. Trump.